Lifestyle | The Power by Naomi Alderman

Thursday, February 01, 2018

As you might know, I've joined a FaceBook book group called Bookish Mama's and January was its inaugural month. We read The Power by Naomi Alderman and it was a tough read. It's billed as a cross between The Handmaids Tale and Hunger Games.

In the book club, we have a monthly discussion via a Facebook live. I wasn't sure how this would work but it was great. There wasn't too many of us in the chat. This was a double-edged sword. On one hand, this was good for me as I struggle to keep up but it was a shame that not all that many people could join us. There will never be a time to suit everyone.

We had been given some questions ahead of time and I've gone through and answered this. These were all done before the chat and some of my answers would be different now. I also want to read the book again but I'm taking that slowly and reading the odd page every now and again. I've also added a couple of questions I'd ask myself when I do book reviews.

These questions and answer will contain spoilers sweetie!

1. What did you think about the lead characters – Allie, Roxy, Margot and Tunde? What role in the structure of the story did each of them play?
I didn’t feel any empathy towards any of the main characters, the only one I felt I connected with was Roxy. This might be because she was the only British person or because she felt a little more well rounded than any of the others.
Allie – felt lacking and as if she hadn’t been well thought out or planned. It was almost like she was a bit part rather than a lead.
Roxy – I want to know more about Roxy, I’d like to know more about her childhood and life as she grew up.
Margot – Again to me she felt like a filler and I kept thinking Jos would become a bigger player, but it felt like she was only mentioned when there was nothing else to say.
Tunde – From one min a youngish player to next min and international journalist, felt very unrealistic and implausible. I didn’t really get his role until I’d finished the book and then I can see the need for him.

2. Do you think the scenario played out in a plausible manner?
Yes and no, towards the end it became a little bit silly and I got lost a bit as people seemed to jump from one place to another, but the initial premise was excellent.
I get a lot of static shocks and cause a lot of static shocks. Between me and my mum last weekend we’re not sure who caused the shock, but I got one down the nail of my little finger and my finger still hurts slightly.
While I was reading the book, I could see how someone who is quite a static person could harness their power and make it more dangerous. I’m not too sure about being born with a skein that comes to life during puberty but elements of what was coming across I could work with.

3. What did you think of the use of the commentary between the TV presenters / Daniel and Margot to illustrate the process of gender role-reversal?
I don’t really remember too much about these scenes, I vaguely remember finding them humour but I clearly didn’t pay much attention to them.
4. How important was religious belief and religious institutions to the story?
I feel it was used as a vehicle to carry the story and as an excuse to fight and carry out the atrocities they caused.

5. What do you think Allie’s internal voice actually was?
Who knows, and internal monologue. Part of me thought of Freud with the Id, Ego and Super Ego but none of these really fit. Other explanations could lead down other psychological routes such as auditory hallucinations. I’ve googled and these are not always linked to people with mental health conditions but they are common in people with schizophrenia. I don’t want to speculate and say I think this is what Allie had as I’m not qualified and I got an N in my A Level Psychology exam I don’t think it’s my place to say. Another explanation I was thinking is less dramatic and that is that it was just her conscience. Especially the part before Roxy arrived and it said something along the lines of something good is coming, this almost seems like wishful thinking and coincidence

6. Violence is a key theme in the book, was there too much emphasis on these extreme examples of human behaviour?
I don’t think there was enough, there could / should have been different ways of portraying it but I’ll admit I quite enjoy a high body count. I don’t think the male rape scenes were necessary or to be described as graphically as they were. This may contradict my view of Allie’s experience of rape. While I could live without it I feel it was almost expected and then in some ways, it wasn’t needed.
7. Did you think the emails between Naomi and Neil which sandwich the book was necessary?
Yes I think they are critical to the story, they make everything make sense and if they were not there the book wouldn’t have ended as actual “story” part of the book didn’t seem to come to a conclusion fully for me.

8. What did you think of the artefact pictures?
I didn’t see the need for them, they helped to bulk out the page count but I tried to look and read them but it didn’t really “do” anything for me.

9. How do you think the presence of Tunde’s story altered the overall storytelling? Why do you think Alderman chose to include that aspect?
The inclusion of Tunde was as critical as the emails to the story, I do feel his actual role was a bit fanciful and not well created. It would have been better to have him start as a reporter rather than him suddenly be one. Tunde’s role was to help bring across the gender switch of the story. With the initial chapters I was bored by him and did think about skipping those chapters but didn’t and now I’m glad I didn’t.

10. Did you enjoy the book? Would you recommend it?
In all honesty, I don’t know if I enjoyed it or liked it or hated it. I don’t know if it was because I was trying to read it quickly to try and finish for the book club deadline (My book took ages to arrive) or because I had higher expectations for it. It was billed similar to The Handmaids tale crossed with Hunger Games. I’ve read The Handmaids tale a number of times and I really enjoy it and everything it has to offer and feel like I get something new from it with each reading. I haven’t read The Hunger Games but I have watched Battle Royale which I’ve been told has a very similar premise. (body count!!!) I did pull a couple of aspects from both but it didn’t live up to either of these. Would I recommend it, at this moment in time probably not? Would I read it again? Yes, I think I need to. I often think a second read is a good idea especially when you’re not sure of something.

Additional Questions
What would you rate it on Good Reads?
I would give It a 3 at this moment in time.
Would you read more by the same author?

Yes, I would, I’m always interested to see how authors tackle other books. 

The organisers of the book club are: Catch a Single Thought, Mrs H’s Favourite Things and The Organised Life Project

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  1. This is really interesting Steph. Your opinion of it is very different to mine, but I can completely see why you felt the way you did. I also thought the emails added a lot to the book and also the character of Tunde. I do agree that Allie was under-developed, you make a good point there. I'm so glad you enjoyed the Live, and hope you can join us for the next one xx


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